Opinion: Rumored East Campus Development plans defy university values


Photo courtesy of Oakland.edu

The corner of campus bordering Walton and Adams.

Oakland University’s value statement claims the university highly values the ethical treatment of both people and the environment.

OU is currently soliciting proposals for the potential development of the patch of land bordering Walton Boulevard and Adams Road — more commonly known as East Campus. While the process is still in its early stages, rumor has it that plans for an upscale boutique hotel or retail presence to occupy this space could be on the table.

This all comes at a time where the university is grappling with a 13% decrease in enrollment over the past two years. It makes sense, then, that the university would be exploring new revenue streams in the face of such a steep decline.

I understand the university is facing financial adversity.

I understand the desire to explore alternative sources of revenue.

I also understand that any development which would introduce something like a hotel to our campus would be in direct violation of the purported value this university places upon its people and its environment.

How can you promise to keep us safe, and then invite an influx of strangers to our campus who will only further complicate our commuter school’s existing traffic issues?

How can you succeed so many unsafe incidents on campus this past year by partially or completely leasing away OUPD’s jurisdiction over this land?

How can you spend all of October posing as champions of sustainability, then authorize the bulldozing of so much of our green space?

OU’s VP of university advancement Mike Westfall told The Oakland Post that whatever is done with this land, it must “draw the campus to the corner.” I can’t speak for all students, but personally, affording luxury hotel stays really isn’t a frequent pastime of mine, so I don’t see how a development of this sort would attract us.

According to the university, revenue generated from any approved development “would be utilized to support students, faculty, programs, and infrastructure.”

I hear this – just as I also heard another 3.9% increase in tuition announced over the summer.

Just as I also heard our faculty protest the slashing of their benefits from the picket line last fall.

Just as I also heard the administration is enjoying a shiny new exclusive penthouse in Wilson Hall.

Given this track record, why should we believe that student and faculty interests will receive priority when it comes to using this proposed revenue?

I’d like to see the administration honor their commitment to their people and the environment with what they have before promising to do so through potentially harmful developments which contradict their values.

Various development proposals and stakeholder feedback will be discussed by the Board of Trustees in the spring. As students, you are among the most — if not the most important stakeholders to weigh in on this.

If you share in my concern for any development which would clear green space and compromise student safety and convenience, please demonstrate this concern to the administration by signing Student Congress’ petition against East Campus Development on Change.org today.